The Lady of Shalott (Alfred Lord Tennyson)

The Lady of Shalott:


The Lady of Shalott is a version of the legend about a fairy who falls in love with a mortal and who, in claiming him for her own, dies. The Lady of Shalott is a fairy creature who lives in an unreal world of magic mirrors and magic webs. There is a curse on her that if she looks out of her window towards Camelot (the real world) she will die. She can only see the world through the images reflected in a mirror. No human being has ever seen her and only reapers reaping early in the morning or late in the evening have heard her singing. The lady does not know why or what exactly the curse is, and is content to look at the world through the magic mirror. And it is a true feast of life that flashes across her mirror, beginning with young lovers to a funeral procession. She weaves all this into a tapestry. Only once does she sigh when she sees two young lovers, newlywed. “I am half sick of shadows.”

Then one day, the knight Sir Lancelot, riding down to Camelot, blazes across the mirror and the lady cannot contain herself any longer. She runs to the window and sees the Knight’s helmet and plume and looks towards Camelot. In the same instance, the web falls out, and the mirror cracks. The lady realizes that the curse is upon her, but this does not stop her. She goes down to the river’s edge, unties the boat on the river, and sails towards Camelot, singing her last song. By the time the boat reaches Camelot, she is dead and all the people come out to see in awe and fear the beautiful lady lying dead. To this bare skeleton of the story, Tennyson has added the device of the mirror and the web and the curse and made the story into a myth of the poetic imagination. The poet cannot directly take part in reality but must look at it through the mirror of the imagination ad weave it into the tapestry of his art. And the curse under which She lives is the inescapable conditions of the poet’s art.

Comprehensive Summary:

The Lady of Shalott is a strange story of a strange lady. She lived on an island named Shalott. The island was situated in the middle of a river. The river flowed towards Camelot, the capital city of King Arthur. The Lady of Shalott lived in a grey-colored house on the island. She lived a lonely life.

Nobody had ever seen her even at the window. Only the farmers working in the fields sometimes heard the song sung by the strange lady. Nobody knew anything about her.

It was a strange place. Equally strange was the way of her life. She was not allowed to go out of the tower. She could not look out even. The doors remained shut. The windows were never opened.

However, there was one mirror. It was also a strange mirror. It brought her pictures of the outside. Outside there was a road that went towards Camelot. The river also flowed towards Camelot. Somehow she knew that there was a curse upon her life. She did not know anything about the curse. A strange voice had often forbade her to look outside the window.

The lady lived her life in this unusual way. She looked at all the things on the road through their reflections in the mirror. There were other pictures too. But she had no interest. Then, one day she saw a handsome young knight named Lancelot. She could not help looking at him directly. Such was the power of youthful love that she opened the window and looked out.

As soon as she looked out, the mirror cracked by itself. The web she was weaving flew out of the window and fell into the river. She now understood the power of the curse. Immediately, a storm began to blow. It began to rain. Such a severe storm came that it became dark, The lady knew that her end had come.

For the first time, the lady walked out of the tower. She went downstairs. A boat was lying there. Her name was written on the boat. She knew that it was her boat. By this time, high waves were rising in the river.

She sat in the boat. The chains came out. It began to float by itself towards Camelot. She was wearing a white dress. It was the dress of mourning. She was also singing a song. This was her swan song.

Afterward, she lay down in the boat. The boat began to move faster. It gained speed. Nobody knew when she died. But when the boat reached Camelot, people came out to see her. Then everyone looked at her lovely face. People felt very sad. They prayed that she may get peace in Heaven. Among the people was the same knight as well. He also felt sorry.

Narrate in your own words the story of the Lady of Shalott:

The Lady of Shalott is a very famous narrative poem written by Alfred Tennyson. Its story shows that a woman prefers to embrace death rather than live without love.

The Lady lived in a secluded tower on the island of Shalott. She could look at the world only as it was reflected in her mirror. She continued weaving a magic web all the time. She knew that if she ever tried to look at the world face to face, some dreadful curse would befall her.

The island of Shalott was at a distance from the city of Camelot. The Lady was never seen by anybody. Only the reapers who reaped early in the morning heard a song coming from Shalott. The Lady on different occasions saw in the mirror young cheerful maidens, a priest, a curly shepherd boy, and a long-haired servant. Once the sight of a newlywed couple awakened love in her and she felt sick of shadows.

One day the Lady of Shalott happened to see through the mirror the bold and handsome knight Sir Lancelot going to Camelot. She could not resist the temptation of seeing him face to face. As soon as she looked through the window the web flew away. The mirror cracked into pieces. She knew that her end was near.

The Lady, at once, left the tower, lay down in a boat, and loosened its chain. The boat moved towards Camelot. The lady sang her last song. By the time the boat reached the city, the Lady was already dead. The people of Camelot mourned her death. Sir Lancelot paid rich tributes to her matchless beauty. He prayed that God might bless the departed soul. He never knew that the Lady of Shalott had sacrificed her life for him.

Write briefly the theme of the poem “The Lady of Shalott.”

The theme of the poem is that there is a world of difference between dreams and reality. Life removed from reality is not at all satisfactory. When reality enters the world of dreams, the latter is shattered. If a person tries to cut himself off from reality, he comes to grief.

The Lady of Shalott lives in her room on the island of Shalott. She has a curse upon her. She is not to look directly at things happening outside. The things happening outside are reflected in the mirror. She gets sick of her life of shadows. One day Sir Lancelot rides to the city of Camelot. He looks very handsome to the Lady as seen by her through the mirror. She at once comes out of her room and takes a boat to go to Camelot. The curse has its effect and she lies dead in the boat. She gives her life for the love of Sir Lancelot. When the boat carrying the dead body of the lady reaches the city of Camelot, he sees beauty in her face and prays for her soul.

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